Sunday, January 19, 2014

Expressing the Desire/Wish to Do Something in Japanese

When I went to Japan for the first time years ago, this is something I simply couldn't express: the wish/desire to do something. "I want to go there, I would like to taste this food, I wish I could try that one day, ...".

In this case, the dictionary doesn't help much because there isn't really a way to translate the word "want" or "would like". What you need to do, though, isn't too difficult: simply use the -tai form of a verb.

For example, "I want to eat" would be 食べたい (tabetai). "I want to drink": 飲みたい (nomitai), "I want to go": 行きたい (ikitai).

This tai-form of a verb is very useful and not too hard to remember/use.

In the cases the person desiring an action is not the same as the person performing the action, you need to use something else. For example: "I want him to do this". You cannot use the V-tai form because it would mean "I want to do this (myself)". In that case, you need to use the "-te hoshii" form. In the previous example (a bit vague to have a proper translation), something like "彼がこれをしてほしい" would be used (sounds very textbook but please focus on the -te hoshii form).

I want him to come tonight: 今夜,彼が来てほしいです。(konya karega kite hoshii desu)

I would like it to snow: 雪が降ってほしい。(yuki ga futte hoshii)

After hoshii, you should use です (desu) in formal occasion or nothing for familiar/informal language.

Hope this helps you expressing your desire to do something or desire that something is done by someone.


  1. Hi! Thanks for this article... I've known that the たい form is used for things I myself want to do, and 〜て欲し can be used for things I want others to do. I've also heard of a way to say what someone else wants to do by using たがる:

    Tomoko wants to go.

    Or to make it more polite and less assuming sounding, add そうです:

    Tomoko seems to want to go.

    Have you heard this used at all? I wonder whether it's common, or used more in formal speech?


    1. This is an excellent question, thanks for asking it! It is indeed a form used in formal speech and not so common in casual Japanese.